Public Distribution System laws in India

Share on:

The Public Distribution System (PDS) is our country’s food security method which came into the force as a system for sharing of food grains among citizens in our country at cost effective prices and for administering the food at difficult situations such as emergency. This PDS shares subsidised food and non-food items to poor people in our country. The PDS method was launched in1947 June. After the passage of time, PDS has become a main step of the Government's policy for administering and looking at the food economy in India. PDS is auxiliary in form and is not made with intention for making complete availability of the full requirement of any of the food products distributed under it to a general household or some segment of the society.

The formation of public distribution of food in our country had its roots in the 'rationing' program started by the Britishers at the time of World War II. After that Public distribution of food got accepted as a focused social policy by our country when it began the way for well structured economic progress in 1951.

In the international scenario the right to food is protected under:

25th Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

11th Article of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights

24th and 27th Articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Context of India:

In the Indian context, the right to food is compulsory as per the 21st  Article of the Constitution of India after the Apex Court’s ruling in the PUCL case and 47th Article of the Indian Constitution.

The 21st Article of Indian Constitution says that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”

People’s Union for Civil Liberty Vs Union of India of Apex court is a major verdict in legal and political sense, but most significantly it is landmark for the tangible and rapidly growing positive effects that it has had on the poor people’s lives regarding their hunger.

There are many pros of PDS as it benefits so much

  1. By this PDS we can keep strong food security in India. 
  2. PDS will help the poor people in the country by making prices in a cost effective manner.
  3. During the short season of crop production. PDS looks after and overviews the buffer stock of food grains in our country.

Key objectives of Public distribution system

The aim of the PDS doesn’t make itself a limit for the distribution of rationed articles only. This aims to make proper weight of food of necessary commodities for 365 days in a year, in each and every area accessible to each and every person, at cost effective prices to every citizen and guarding of the poor people of the population from the frequent spiral of growing prices is the key objective of PDS.

Main focuses of PDS are as under:

  1. Keeping goods available to all consumers at cost effective prices.
  2. Removing the irrelevant imbalances between the demand and supply for consumer goods. Noting and preventing stock hoarding and stopping the black market goods of essential commodities.
  3. This keeps up the social structure of justice in distribution of essential needs of humankind.
  4. To flatten up the frequent changes in prices and make food consumption goods on a very large scale.
  5. PDS promotes to eliminate poverty through so many schemes, particularly, like rural employment schemes, (SGRY/SGSY/IRDP/ Mid-day meals, ICDS, DWCRA, SHGs and Food for Duty and food sharing schemes in educational centres.

Functioning of PDS

The Union government and the Governments of different states in our country distribute the responsibility among themselves for delivering the subsidised food items to the beneficiaries who are in the eligibility of Targeted Public Distribution System. The Union is mainly accountable for the procuring food grains from the Kisan of our country with the MSP- Minimum Support Price. Then those collected food grains are sold at the union issued fixed prices. The Union government is also in charge of transporting the food commodities to all the states of our country. States of our country are accountable for delivering the necessary goods from these warehouses to every ration shop in the state, where the beneficiaries buy the food grains at a union quoted price. States also have the authority to further lower the price of commodities that are sold in the shops of ration.

The Apex Court ruling on rotting of food grains in CAP storage

At the time of 2010 August, in the case of PUCL vs. Union of India, the top court noted that food commodities were rotting due to less and improper storage. It ordered the union government to take necessity long and short duration steps to keep and preserve procured food commodities, and prevent and stopping rotting, including:

  1. constructing sufficient FCI retention the facilities in every state and division,
  2. Expanding allocation to Below poverty line families,
  3. Starting the true cost shops for each and every day in the month,
  4. Sharing the food commodities to beneficiaries at less or no price charges.

Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS):

As per the recent Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) every poor family is allowed to get 10 kgs of food grains per 30 days (20 kg with effect from 2000 April) at other subsidies costs. This is most probable to help out about 6 crore poor households, for whom a quantity of around  seventy two lakhs tonnes of food commodities annually is designated. The recognition of the beneficiaries is looked after by the government of states, relying on state-wise poverty approximations of the commission for planning. This push is to limit the benefits exclusively to the real poor and vulnerable sections of society in our country.

Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY)

AAY was a scheme in the promotion of creating TPDS aimed at controlling the food hunger among the poor social segments like Below poverty line population. A Nationwide sample survey organisation noted and stressed the truth that about five percent of the overall population in India take rest without sleeping without 2 proper meals in the entire day. This type of the population could be called the "hunger population”. In the aspects to make TPDS more deeper sense and pointed in the direction of this category of people, the "Antyodaya Anna Yojana” (AAY) was launched in 2000 in the month of December for very poor households by delivering them food commodities at a very high subsidised rate of two rupees per kilogram for the wheat and for rice it is rupees three per kilogram. The government’s of states and union territories were needed to pay the distribution cost, in addition by marginalising dealers and retailers also and also the cost of  transportation. In this way the total food subsidy was covered on to the consumers under the scheme.

suggested ways of PDS in advanced ways

The need of the moment is that the public distribution system reforms should be reframed to ensure that public distribution functions the way it is intended. Technology based steps in PDS are suggested.

Technology Based reforms:

Complete computerization might bring total transparency in the complete process. This would guide to prevent food grains leakages and food grains diversion to a major extent.

For PDS (2011) The Justice Wadhwa Committee Report suggested complete computerisation for two reasons: one is to prevent diversion, and another one to authorise assured identification at shops of ration.

The separate types of reforms forwarded by different states are:

Linking of Aadhar and ration cards digitisation: 

This will permit Internet entry and proper verification of data of beneficiaries. This also keeps up the online tracking of monthly claims and off-take of food commodities by these people beneficiaries.

Based on monitoring of short message based service: 

This permits surveillance by common people so that those common people might register their phone numbers and send/receive Short message based service rings during the dispatch and arrival of the targeted public distribution system.

Direct Benefit Transfer:

As per the scheme of the Direct Benefit Transfer, money is moved to the beneficiaries’ account in lieu of the food commodities subsidy section. They will be free to purchase the commodities anywhere at any place of  market. It is estimated that cash transfers alone would save up  the exchequer rupees thirty thousand crore per annum.

Fair price Shops computerization:

FPS mechanised by putting up a ‘Point of Sale ‘device to ration card swap. It certifies and validates the beneficiaries and notes the quantity of subsidised food grains given to a household.

Usage of Global Positioning System technology: 

Technological usage of the (GPS) Global Positioning System to track the routes of vehicles like trucks carrying commodities of food from depots of state to FPS which might help to stop the diversion of vehicles.

Use of online public portal

By setting up the online public platform or toll free access the public can easily get the updates of TPDS and food grains.


The public distribution system is one of the biggest and major social schemes for the government. By guiding the Kisan in selling their crop at proper prices and permitting the poor class of society to buy food commodities at cost effective rates. Its productiveness can be doubled with solutions based on the technology, as proved by some of the  state's successes. The effective way forward is to nourish the present targeted public distribution system by organisation building and guiding up concerned administrators and authorities. To avoid leaks which are unplugged. To boost up and upgrade the nutritional standards of the public, bio-fortified commodities should be spread through the PDS, which will make it extra pertinent in the conditions of extensive malnutrition in our country.